Pandemic has exposed weaknesses

Bill Sims Contributing columnist

Bill Sims Contributing columnist

With the holiday season in full bloom, many Americans seem hell bent on engaging the Covid enemy before their armor has arrived. The University of Washington’s Health Institute (UWHI) forecast on Saturday that the death toll in the U.S. may reach 410,000 by January 2021. Lending legitimacy to this ominous estimate, the UWHI’s infection model has been cited by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Since I used a combat analogy to open this column, let me add this insight: typical estimates of the number of U.S. soldiers killed in World War II is between 400,000 and 420,000. I wish this pandemic was a hoax.

According to the Columbus Dispatch about 170 athletes at OSU are getting tested daily. In Hillsboro, the only on-demand walk-in testing available is at the Highland County District Hospital, and they seem to be discouraging walk-ins without a doctor’s referral. Does that make Highland County a “testing desert”?

The images of endless lines of cars cueing up at foodbanks during the pandemic runs counter-intuitive to the image of America, yet according to both Feeding America and the Pew Research Center, the pandemic has elevated food insecurity in America by about 46 percent or to approximately 54 million people, including 18 million children.

The strength of America lies in a thriving American middle class. The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in our public health system and in our structural economy, weaknesses that need nourishment. The maintenance of a middle class as the bulwark of our society, and one that can avoid food bank lines, was illustrated in a paradigm I ran across recently. Henry Ford made a decision in the middle of his production of the Model T to pay his workers $5 an hour ($26.30 in today’s dollars) because he wanted to increase productivity, which happened along with the unexpected benefit of his workers now being able to buy the cars they were making. I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions.

It’s no secret that the necessary intervention to defeat this health affliction on our middle class, and on our small businesses, is to get to the vaccine stage of this nightmare. The end is in sight with promising vaccines that may be available as early as mid-December. Yet ironically, the adversary we must overcome is us. Why has the virus surged? Colder weather? Cavalier attitudes about wearing masks and social distancing? A-symptomatic children bringing the virus home? Probably all of the above, but reckless attitudes about mask wearing and social distancing just may kill attempts to control the virus, and us.

When the virus first made its way into the U.S., honestly it seemed so distant. I didn’t know of anyone who’d contracted it. Highland County felt far enough removed to elicit a confident attitude of “no worries.” The federal government was telling us not to worry, it would all pass soon. It hasn’t.

Today, I personally know of five people who have contracted it, four in Highland County, and one has died. And now, after 11 months, we are being told by the White House Coronavirus Task Force we may be on the brink of surges on top of surges. Where to go to get tested?

If the projections come true, and so far they have hit all their marks, then the 410,000 lives this country will have lost in 11 months will either equal or exceed all American soldiers lives lost in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, and that took over four years’ time. This horrific year has indeed become historical.

Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, an author, and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.

Bill Sims Contributing columnist Sims Contributing columnist